Dubai, Dec. 3, 2023– The following statement was issued by Sushil Raj of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Dr. Myrna Cunningham Kain of the Pawanka Fund, and Roberto Múkaro Agüeibaná Borrero of the Inclusive Conservation Academy:

“We come from nature, depend on nature, and return to nature. Nature is central to our collective humanity, various cultures, identity, and future as human beings. Many Indigenous Peoples reflect this clearly through their ways of life, knowledge, and belief systems. We understand this deep link between biological and cultural diversity through our biological and social science, and through traditional ecological knowledge. 

“Despite both its intrinsic and extrinsic value, we see a near absence of nature in recent COP decisions and on the COP28 negotiating agenda. Moreover, the rights of Indigenous Peoples under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and other international human rights instruments have not seen significant reflection in past outcomes beyond cursory references.

“Healthy high-integrity ecosystems deliver critical services on which humanity depends, while the loss of ecological integrity is the primary driver of the three existential crises of climate, biodiversity and health. It is important to understand that Indigenous Peoples and high integrity ecosystems have deep reciprocal relationships. Their presence in and adjacent to high-integrity tropical, temperate, and boreal forests, high integrity peatlands, as well as marine areas, gives them a central role in climate regulation, prevention of biodiversity loss, and its rejuvenation. Conservation models that have people at the center, especially those with a strong cultural link to place are the most effective mechanisms by which we preserve high-integrity ecosystems.

“We cannot achieve our climate goals of keeping global warming at the 1.5-degree limit of the Paris Agreement without accelerating the phase out of fossil fuels, ensuring a just transition, and protecting nature through high integrity ecosystems for carbon capture. And we must secure the land and cultural rights of Indigenous Peoples who contribute significantly to climate solutions. Even where these titles are secured there are multiple threats to their integrity and sustenance.

What needs to happen at this COP28?

“COP28 President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber emphasized with urgency the importance of a Global Stocktake (GST) with the highest ambition and concrete outcomes. Negotiations at the COP must therefore center human rights, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the rights of nature to be transformative in protecting and sustaining our planetary health without which we cannot achieve the Paris Agreement.  

“More specifically we need the full recognition and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international human rights instruments. Countries must make their Nationally Determined Contributions processes fully inclusive at the national level. Nature’s diverse values which include non-market approaches have to be reflected in negotiations in order to achieve shared objectives for our common humanity. 

“Simultaneously, the global community must mobilize significant funding to protect high integrity ecosystems with Indigenous Peoples as part of decision making on climate solutions. 

“On financing, there has to be stepped up and simplified funding modalities for Indigenous Peoples through their established institutions and mechanisms, and self-determined priorities as they receive less than 1% of biodiversity and climate finance. There should also be direct access to adequate and sustainable funding for adaptation and mitigation through simplified mechanisms.

“On the issue of global equity we need to see commitments and the mobilization of the $100 billion in finance to developing countries with a specific focus on Indigenous Peoples who are paying the price for the climate crisis but not getting adequate funding.

“And for the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy to be just and equitable, renewable energy projects must specifically respect the Indigenous Peoples’ right to free, prior and informed consent enshrined in UNDRIP and consider the obligations of parties under international human rights law.

“Following the recent agreement and looking ahead, the active participation of Indigenous Peoples in the decision making of the loss and damage fund, as well as direct and simplified funding structures are key. The mechanism for loss and damage should actively prevent loss and damage as a first priority, including the loss of culture and identity. Provisions should also include rapid response mechanisms for emergency situations. 

“A first Global Stocktake that simply tells us what we already know — that we are off track — would be seriously deficient. It has to embed a human rights-centric approach in all pertinent documents, including the political phase of the review of results. 

“The full and effective participation of Indigenous Peoples, including youth, women, people with disabilities, and Traditional Knowledge holders, must be ensured and included in all actions proposed in the Global Stocktake, including the Political Phase of the review of results and document preparation.

“Lastly, negotiations under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement must include robust safeguards encapsulated in the human rights based approach and remove draft provisions of charging $5,000 to Indigenous Peoples for submitting a grievance if harm is caused. Grievance Redress Mechanisms must be paid for by those causing harm. They must be robust, independent, and effective to redress harms in a timely way.

“If commitments recognize the role of nature and affirm the rights of Indigenous Peoples in concrete terms, they will not only contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation but to the protection of the world’s biodiversity, the health of ecosystems, the delivery of support and ecosystem services, and lead to a more stable and equitable world. Otherwise all of us will lose.”


Inclusive Conservation Academy

The ICA seeks to build capacity in the areas of inclusive conservation, Indigenous-led conservation, and community-led conservation amongst Indigenous Peoples and local communities, as well as with conservation NGOs, government representatives, donors, academia, and the private sector.

Pawanka Fund

Pawanka is a global indigenous led fund that responds to the needs of indigenous peoples based on relationships of trust, networking and articulation between local and global processes. Pawanka strengthens indigenous peoples’ self-determined development through effective and strategic grant making by revitalizing traditional knowledge and learning systems, management investment at scale and advocacy to promote intercultural philanthropy that transforms power relations, and ancestral and spiritual values and practices of relationship between all beings.